Easy Vs Hard Way Road Sign

by Mandy Pearce


Read the guidelines.

They’re there for a reason.


In short, grant guidelines are instructions.

Grant guidelines are not suggestions, they are a specific set of rules that an applicant should follow when developing a grant proposal.

Guidelines can be anywhere from one page to hundreds of pages, depending on the agency/organization/foundation providing them.

Typically, the larger the funding opportunity, the longer and more complex guidelines will be. bigstock Focus 6716743 2 250x170 What are grant guidelines?

Guidelines can include everything from font size and type to be used, to the spacing of the pages/margins, information to be included and left out, specific items to be addressed, how to submit the application, etc.

Additionally, state or federal grant guidelines will likely provide a breakdown of the scoring system to be utilized in the peer review process. The explanation of the scoring system will probably include point values for each question and if there are bonus points available. This is helpful as programs are designed and strengths and weaknesses are assessed.

As I tell everyone I work with… read the guidelines, they are there for a reason.

Before you begin writing one word on the application, read every word in the guidelines.

Guidelines are a great way for donors to weed out applications. A funder will often discard an application based on lack of compliance with guidelines. While this may seem strict, it is only fair that a funder may assume if an applicant is unable to follow simple instructions in the guidelines, they may not comply with the grant contract if funded. This is a great reason to contact the program officer if you have questions or something is unclear.

I have read hundreds of pages of guidelines for a grant that allowed a maximum of 40 pages to be submitted. Every page is important. Be thorough and know everything being requested before you begin writing.


Mandy Pearce is the founder of Funding for Good. She’s an expert grant writer and fundraising coach. You can find more of her wisdom at www.grantcrews.com. Fund4Good logo 1024x446 What are grant guidelines?

Donation Check Money Contribution to Charity Non-Profit Group

Fundraising has changed.

In the past, we raised money by simply asking.

We asked through the mail. We asked in person. We asked at events.

And we raised money.

Today, there are more nonprofits than ever, which means more people than ever are doing the asking.

On top of that, donors are more savvy. They know good fundraising when they see it.

They’re tired of being “hit up” for money.

They expect more. They want to see a good return on their investment in your organization.

They want more than ever before.

I think the nonprofits that will be crazy-successful this year will be paying attention to what donors want and doing their best to give it to them.

It just makes sense to cater to the source of your funding, doesn’t it?

Here’s my short list of what donors want from the nonprofits they support.


  • They want to know they can trust your nonprofit. It’s not good enough to be just a charity anymore. You have to show that you’re worthy of the donor’s trust. You must do what you say you’ll do and prove that you can handle money wisely. Otherwise, you’ll never hear from the donor again.
  • They want a clear request they can immediately understand. Donors are busy and they’re not willing to wade through a long, vague request to figure out what you’re asking for. For-profit businesses make a simple, direct ask, and now people expect that from nonprofits, too.
  • They want to know their gift matters.  Even if they can only give a small gift, they want to feel important and know that their gift made a difference.
  • They want to know the outcome. People are curious. When they give, they want to know what happened. Did you get the result you were shooting for with the program? Did the person or animal in your story get a happy ending? Don’t leave your donors hanging, wondering what happened.
  • They want to be thanked and appreciated. Donors like to be acknowledged, even when they insist they don’t. Do a good job of thanking donors and they’ll be very likely to give again. Think about it for yourself: Have you ever gone out of your way to do something for someone, and then not been thanked? It doesn’t feel good, does it? And you don’t usually feel like helping that person again. So, don’t be that person to your donor – thank them well.
  • Donors want to feel good about the giving experience. Donors want to feel good about giving to you. They want to know they made a good decision to give to you and that you’ll do great things with their money. No one wants to make a donation, then worry that they just wasted their money.
  • They don’t want to be hounded about more gifts.  Donors who love your organization want to support you and see you be successful. But they don’t want you asking for more all the time. (Hint: if you do a good job of building trust and helping them feel good about their donation, they’ll be happy to give again.)


Most of these donor needs are pretty easy to meet. You do it through prompt  What Do Your Donors Want?

response, good communication, and attention to the relationship.

To win the donor’s heart and keep them giving, your job is to give them

  • Heart-warming stories. Share with them the story of the child you just provided with food or the dog you just saved. Tell the story with a lot of emotion and use photos and video whenever you can so the donor can get as close to the story as possible.
  • Clear explanation of the need. The more clear and concise you can be, the better. Learn to describe the need in simple language, without jargon, without acronyms, and without extra words.
  • Excellent customer service. When the donor calls or emails with a question, be prompt, friendly, and courteous in getting it answered for them. Your donors foot the bill for your organization’s operations. Treat them accordingly.
  • Sincere gratitude. Be grateful to your donors. Show your appreciation whenever possible. Be real and authentic and thank them warmly. Donors will tolerate a lot when they feel appreciated, so if you don’t do anything else, do this one and demonstrate your gratitude to them.
  • Trust that your organization deserves their support. It’s your job to build trust with the donor. Do the things you need to do to build trust – keep your word, be transparent, and share information. Show that your nonprofit is trustworthy.

 What Do Your Donors Want?

There are a lot of practical things you can do to build trust. A great thank-you letter goes a long way. So does a year-end card. Here’s a great example from Muttville. It’s a post-card that accomplishes several things. It’s a nice donor touch, gives me a glimpse into what they’re doing, and is very easy to read.

A simple post-card like this is easy to produce and easy to read. Clearly, I was able to read it in just a few seconds when it arrived in the mail.

It’s easy to look at something like that and think “there’s no Ask in it, which means there’s no way to raise money from it.” Not everything you do needs to directly raise money. I guarantee you that a piece like this, with the purpose of Muttville 2 250x140 What Do Your Donors Want?building the relationship, will ultimately help you raise more money. Never get so focused on the money you want right now that you forfeit the money that’s coming in the future because you neglect the relationship.

Now it’s your turn. What are you doing to give your donors what they want?

It’s a good time to evaluate the things you’re doing to build trust and show your appreciation. Improve on the things you’re doing to give your donors a good experience.

If all you do is take one step in the right direction, it’ll be worth it. Your donors will notice.


Now that you have a fresh year in front of you, it’s time to get serious about what you’ll do with it.

Will it be just another year?

Or will this be YOUR year?

While you ponder that, let me tell you what I think you SHOULD do with this year.

It’s what I think the outstanding nonprofits will be doing this year.

None of this is hard, and it’s not earth-shattering.

Almost all of it requires a slight shift in your thinking and actions.

You up for the challenge?


  1. Focus on WHY, not HOW. You must tell your story – people need to know what you’re about before they’ll give, and current donors need to be kept in the loop. Talk about what’s important – the WHY, now the HOW. Talk about the impact you’re having, not the process for how you get it. You’re more familiar with the process and programs, and that’s what you naturally think of.  People don’t care about your programs – they want to know what you’re doing that matters. Stop talking about programs and start talking about how your programs change lives
  2. Refocus the communication. While you’re communicating, stop being all self-centered. Stop talking about “we, we, we” and “us, us, us.” Stop promoting your annual fund. No one cares about your annual fund or your need to pay staff or keep the lights on. What people care about is the work you’re doing that changes lives. Talk about impact and outcomes.
  3. Give the donor a great experience. Donors are much smarter and  Top Nonprofit Fundraising Strategies for 2015more sensitive than ever before. Give them a great experience and warm their heart, and they’ll stick around, giving again and again. Do an average job and you risk losing them. Surprise them. Delight them. At least pay attention to the little details. Thank them warmly and sincerely, and help them feel confident they made a good decision to give. It’ll come back to you over and over.
  4. Ask often. Fundraising is an ongoing activity. You shouldn’t just ask once each year (unless you only need money once each year). Ask often. Ask for money, ask for volunteers. Ask folks to visit you on Facebook or buy tickets to your event. Ask them to come for a tour or to sign your petition. There are lots of ways people can get involved with your organization, so give them options. When a donor cares about your work, they WANT to see you succeed. They’re ready to help however they can. Give them that chance.
  5. Simplify. Eliminate every activity that loses money or generates less than stellar ROI. Let go of most of your events or “fundraisers.” Stop doing nickel and dime fundraising. Instead do those things that are really worthwhile – those things that exceed your goals and bring in money, awareness, and new friends.
  6. Leverage  the “Tom Sawyer” effect.  Make volunteering so much fun that people might pay to do it (not that you’d ask). Volunteers can no longer be a commodity or treated as second class citizens. People who give their time will also give their money to nonprofits they believe are well-run. Make volunteering fun and you’ll not only see people come back, but they’ll bring their friends. And they’ll tell everyone they know how great your organization is. They’ll turn into an army of ambassadors for you.
  7. Take responsibility for your Board.  Start educating Board members about how to do their job instead of using blame, shame, and guilt. If you don’t like the Board you have, it’s time to stop complaining about it and change it. Get them some education. Get a few new members on board. Do something – the situation won’t change on its own, and you’re likely the only person who is in a position to do something about it.
  8. Write plans down. If your fundraising plans aren’t in writing, they aren’t  Top Nonprofit Fundraising Strategies for 2015real. Get them out of your head and put them on paper so you can have an objective look at them. Stop shooting from the hip and dealing with whatever drops from the sky. Be purposeful, create a plan, and get it documented. It’s a whole lot easier to get your co-workers, Board and volunteers engaged with a plan when they can see it on paper.
  9. Stretch for a goal. Look for a way to make things one tiny bit better. How can you increase your ROI on your event? Or your appeal? How can you make volunteering just a tiny bit more fun? Get out of your comfort zone and reach for something worthwhile. It’ll keep you focused in the right direction and help you improve everything you do.
  10. Invest in yourself. Investing in training for staff is one of the best investments you’ll ever make. Get them the books they need, hire a coach, or find a workshop. It’s NOT a badge of honor to work on a shoestring without spending any money on improving the team. If you work on the cheap, you’ll get cheap results. Who wants that?
Streamers And Confetti

You work hard to raise the money your organization needs.

Just this year, you’ve hung in there through thick and thin, good times and bad.

You do it because it matters to you.

And because you care so much and work so hard to make sure your nonprofit delivers programs that change lives, I work to bring you inspiration, education, and resources you need every week.

Here’s a look back at some of the best articles from 2014, covering the hottest fundraising ideas of the year.

  1. 9 Steps to a Powerful Thank You Letter. The Thank You letter often is created and sent without much thought.  It may seem to be the last step in getting a gift from a donor and a routine task that warrants little merit.  But it’s actually the first step in building a relationship. Do it well and the rewards are great. Mess it up, and you just lost your chance at keeping a valuable donor. http://getfullyfunded.com/?p=8951
  2. Building Authentic Relationships with Donors. For many, meeting with and talking to donors is out of their comfort zone. And building a relationship just so you can ask for money – well, that just feels downright wrong to some. It doesn’t have to be that way. http://getfullyfunded.com/?p=8139
  3. 7 Tips for Keeping Donors Interesting in Fundraising. Have you ever had a conversation with your television? You know, one where you are screaming at the actor to look behind them or trying to convince a contestant to pick door #2? While not the most perfect example of talking at people, it does spotlight a problem that I see many nonprofits make when communicating with donors. Fundraising communications is meant to be a conversation – not a one-way street. http://getfullyfunded.com/?p=8209
  4. 5 Tips for Creating Loyal Donors. Deeper relationships lead to increased  What was Hot in 2014giving. You already know that. But did you know that these relationships also create loyal donors? http://getfullyfunded.com/?p=8422
  5. 5 Ways to Build Donor-Centered Relationships. Every nonprofit needs donors to survive. Every day, we hear from organizations everywhere about how difficult it is to get and keep donors.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  http://getfullyfunded.com/?p=8185
  6. 7 Ideas for Last-Minute, Year-End Fundraising. “Got any ideas for last-minute fundraising?” I’ve been asked this question a LOT lately. Everyone can hear the clock ticking. We’ve got two weeks before 2014 is history. And the prominent thought on the minds of many is “how do I get the most from the last days of the year?” http://getfullyfunded.com/?p=11124
  7. 3 Indicators That Your Fundraising is Stuck. One of the hardest things we have to do sometimes is to admit we’re stuck. (Hey, it happens to ALL of us from time to time.) Being stuck means you can’t see possibilities anymore. You’re confused. You’re frustrated. And you need someone to help you get out of it. http://getfullyfunded.com/?p=8580
  8. The Quick-And-Dirty Fundraising Plan. Trust me when I say ‘spray and pray’ is NOT an effective strategy for raising money. You can’t throw something out to the whole community and hope that someone responds. You need a carefully planned strategy, especially if you are committed to the lives you serve. http://getfullyfunded.com/?p=10331
  9. Four steps to Engaging Your Board.  What was Hot in 2014I have a theory about nonprofit Boards. Most small nonprofits have people on their Boards who don’t understand what they’ve said “yes” to. They don’t know what they’re supposed to do as a Board member, and in the absence of knowledge, they do whatever looks fun or familiar. http://getfullyfunded.com/?p=8684
  10. Stop Being the Best-Kept Secret in Town. Raising money requires awareness. If people don’t know you’re there, they can’t support you. No one wakes up in the morning and randomly picks a nonprofit to give to. People give to charities they’ve heard of and trust. http://getfullyfunded.com/?p=8570

Which one was your favorite? We’d love to know!

Single red gift box with silver ribbon on white background.

With over a week left in 2014, you’ve still got time to encourage some last-minute donations.

You’ve also got time to think about what you want to get done in 2015.

Here are some tidbits and goodies that may be helpful for you as you’re wrapping up this year and heading into the new one.


Finish up STRONG in 2014

If you missed last week’s article “7 Ideas for Last-Minute, Year-End Fundraising” you may want to go back and read it. http://getfullyfunded.com/year-end-fundraising/. I lay out several things you can do to raise money here at year-end.


Subject lines matter. Your emails get opened or deleted based on the strength of the subject. Here are some great ideas from Gail Perry on what to put (or not!). http://www.gailperry.com/2014/12/subject-lines-last-minute-email-appeals/ – Oh, and don’t say “donation,” “annual fund,” or “fundraising.” Those DEFINITELY won’t get your email opened!


6 fundraising emails guaranteed to flop. Yes, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do email fundraising. Learn 6 that WON’T work here: http://www.classy.org/blog/6-year-end-appeals-that-are-sure-to-flop/


Is your donation page ready? It needs to be. It won’t help at all to send people to your website if they can’t figure out how to make a gift. Find out if your donation page is ready with this checklist from John Haydon. http://www.slideshare.net/johnhaydon/donation-page-checklist-for-small-nonprofits?utm_content=bufferfd4c9&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer


Need to thank your volunteers? Here are some great ideas from the folks at Volunteer Spot. http://blog.volunteerspot.com/volunteer_guru/2014/11/volunteer-gift-guide.html#axzz3MdqBY5Wr


For 2015

 Wrap Up Fundraising in 2014 With 8 Helpful Resources


Got a fundraising plan? Get ready for the new year with my Quick-And-Dirty fundraising plan. http://www.classy.org/blog/6-year-end-appeals-that-are-sure-to-flop/


Know the special days? Ever wondered when World Water Day is? Or World Animal Day? Find out here: http://www.nptechforgood.com/2014/12/16/annual-calendar-of-social-good-and-cause-campaigns/. Chances are good there’s one or two here you could use to your advantage, at least on social media.


Got a social media plan? Get some great tips here from Bloomerang’s Steven Shattuck on what to share and when. http://www.nonprofithub.org/social-media/ultimate-2015-nonprofit-social-media-scheduling-guide/


What resources do you love? Please share the link in the comments so others can find them, too.



“Got any ideas for last-minute fundraising?”

I’ve been asked this question a LOT lately.

Everyone can hear the clock ticking.

We’ve got two weeks before 2014 is history.

And the prominent thought on the minds of many is “how do I get the most from the last days of the year?”

I’ve got good news.

Even with just a handful of days left, there are still several things you can do to get a bump in donations before New Year’s Eve.

Here are seven ideas for last-minute, year-end fundraising.


  1. Call to say “thanks”. The most powerful fundraising tool you have is sitting on your desk. Or in your pocket. Pick up the phone and call your top 10-20 best donors just to say “thanks.” If they haven’t yet made a gift this year, it’s a subtle reminder. If they have already given, you’re making a deposit into the relationship.
  2. Get them involved. Offer volunteer opportunities through the holidays,  7 Ideas for Last Minute, Year End Fundraising

    especially family-friendly ones. People love to do things that make them feel good, and volunteering can not only do that, but give folks a personal experience with your organization. You’ve got time to email out a call for volunteers or post something on Facebook.

  3. Hold an open house. Schedule an open house to let people come see what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be fancy – you don’t even have to do refreshments. Just give people the chance to see the front lines of your nonprofit. If you’d rather not do an open house, let your supporters know you’ve got a couple of openings for private tours before the end of the year and see what happens. The folks who take you up on it are seriously interested in your mission, and are open to the potential to deepen the relationship.
  4. Pitch a story to the local news media. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is typically a slow news week. Reporters are looking for feel-good stories that they can create and load up now so they can take time off between those holidays. Reach out NOW to your local media and make it easy for them to say “yes” to your story. Pull together all the ‘who, what, when where’ details of the story along with a photo opp.
  5. Send an e-appeal campaign. The last week of the year is THE biggest for online donations. Reach out to your donors and supporters by emailing with a message that’s interesting and relevant. Send email #1 on Dec 26, email #2 on Dec 29, and email #3 on Dec 31. If this feels like too much email to you, don’t worry – it’s not. Keep the messages focused on how your nonprofit changes lives. This is NOT the time to ask for support for your annual fund (no one cares about your Annual Fund but you).
  6. Show up on Facebook. Plan what you’ll post and when on Facebook the last week of the year. Make sure to vary it a bit so you’re not constantly reminding people to make a year-end gift. It’s okay to do some of that, but mix it up with posts that show your organization in action, testimonials from happy clients, memes that make people laugh and your favorite quotes. Use plenty of graphics to keep it visually interesting. The Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley (HSTV) does a great job of mixing it up. Find them at www.Facebook.com/Humanesocietytennessee.
  7. Leverage relationships. Ask your supporters to invite their friends to join them in supporting your mission. You can easily accomplish this by adding it to the end of your email signature and by including it in your e-appeals. I did this with a client several years ago, and asked their Board members to forward the message out to their friends and contacts. We raised an additional $10,000 with that strategy.

If you would like to get Sandy’s weekly blog articles delivered straight to your inbox, simply fill out your name and email after clicking this link: http://getfullyfunded.com/practical-fundraising-tips/


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that good fundraising is based on relationships.

Good fundraising = sustainable, repeatable, comes-from-people-who-love-your-cause, not-working-yourself-silly, raising-craploads-of-money fundraising.

Building relationships requires ongoing communication with your donor.

When it’s done well, it’s interesting, timely, and relevant.

When done poorly, it’s boring and a huge turn-off.

I believe poorly-done communication is what causes donor attrition.

Think about it: when donors aren’t engaged or when they don’t feel good about giving money to your nonprofit, they go away and look for another group that will give them what they want.

Want to drive your donors away? Send them screaming for the hills? Never hear from them again?


Here are ten ways you can bore your donors to tears and kill your fundraising.

  1. Be ego-centric.  Talk more about your programs, your history, and your annual fund. Keep the spotlight on you. Keep it all inwardly focused.
  2. Show no passion. Be dry and mind-numbing. If you write at the last minute, you’ll be more likely to be bland and dull.
  3. Leave out the stories. Stories are interesting, keep our attention, and help us feel something. So definitely don’t include them. Besides, you’ve got privacy issues to worry about if you share a story.
  4. Use lots of mind-numbing statistics. You want to be sure people understand the full scope of your cause, right? Pile on the numbers! Oh, and include them in text – don’t put them in a chart or anything that makes them easier to read.
  5. Use lots of jargon, slang, and acronyms. Those industry terms will show how qualified your organization is.
  6. Be predictable and safe. Don’t push the envelope to make people feel a strong emotion like anger or compassion. Play it safe – vanilla is good. Say what you think your donor wants to hear.
  7. Use lots of big, fancy words and really long sentences. This will definitely show that you’re smart enough!
  8. Omit the outcomes. People should just trust that you’ll get the job done. No need to talk about results.
  9. Bury the lead. Make your reader work really hard to find the interesting morsels. Put the most important points at the very end of your articles or paragraphs.
  10. Leave them out of the club. Communicate in a way that affirms that donors aren’t part of the insiders of your nonprofit. That will clearly delineate “us” and “them.”


Okay, this is very tongue-in-cheek, but you get the picture? (PLEASE tell me you get it!)

I got a letter in the mail just yesterday from a nonprofit I barely know anything about. I think I met someone from there several years ago and we exchanged cards. Clearly, they’ve added me to their mailing list without my permission (which is a huge problem in itself!). So get this – I’m not currently a donor, have no clue what their mission is, and couldn’t tell you the last time I heard from them (maybe not ever). And a letter arrives asking me for money.


The letter has 3 short paragraphs that are all focused internally. Here’s the first paragraph (I’ll leave out the real name so as not to embarrass them):

“We believe “Name of Organization” is uniquely positioned for the greatest impact in our 10-year history as we enter the coming year. However we can’t do it alone.”



Who cares how you’re uniquely positioned? What great impact?

Even when I read the other two paragraphs, there’s nothing in there that gives me ANY reason to care or to send money. I still have no clue what they do, nothing has inspired me, and I have no idea what they’ll do with the money.

I am NOT moved to give them money. None.

In their defense, I just noticed the P.S. says “Be sure not to miss the enclosed “Ministry Highlights: sharing some of our impact stories. This is a good example of intention gone wrong. They expected me to read the entire package – letter, attachments and all.  I don’t have that kind of connection. They’ve done nothing to build a relationship with me such that I would read the entire piece.


So, do yourself a favor – take the learning from this article. Communicate regularly with your donors. Inspire them. Remind them they’re the hero and the reason you’re here doing good work. Keep it interesting and relevant.

I guarantee you’ll see more money coming in as a result.

Freeway sign in blue cloudy skies reading Success and Failure

In the nonprofit world, everything hinges on fundraising.

You’ve got to have money to deliver programs, right? Money keeps the lights on, the staff paid, and everything working.

So, what does it really take to be successful in fundraising? Knowledge? Skill? Connections? All those things are definitely helpful.

Yet there’s something else.

In his book “Outliers,” Malcom Gladwell says that “success is a function of persistence and doggedness.”  

Isn’t that really what success boils down to? Isn’t it all about the ability to hang in there when things don’t go as planned?

How many of us have real doggedness? That kind of “stick with it” attitude that doesn’t allow anything to blow you off track?

If you read the biographies of successful people, you’ll see that their stories are full of relentless persistence. For example:

  • Milton Hersey started 3 unsuccessful candy companies before succeeding.
  • Michael Jordan, the most famous name in basketball, was actually cut from his high school basketball team.
  • Steven Spielberg dropped out of high school and applied to attend film school three times, but was unsuccessful due to his C average.
  • Twelve different publishers rejected the first Harry Potter book. Even Bloomsbury, the small publishing house that finally purchased Rowling’s manuscript, told the author to “get a day job.”
  • As a young man, Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star Newspaper because his boss thought he lacked creativity!

 The Key Ingredient to Successful Fundraising

Here’s my point – Most of the time, success is about not giving up. 

It’s about hanging in there through setbacks and failures. It’s about staying focused on the reasons why your nonprofit’s mission matters.


Not everything is going to go perfectly all the time. That’s absurd to think that it will. It’s not “if” the failures will happen, but “when” they will. How you respond to them says a lot about who you are.

It’s time to let go of any myths of success that you might be hanging on to.

There are no overnight successes.  

“Get rich quick” is a lie.

Money doesn’t just flow in because your organization is nonprofit

Raising money and changing the world isn’t an easy job. There are lots of potholes in the road to success. But if you’re willing to hang in there when things get hard, you’ll have one of the most enjoyable, personally satisfying experiences of your life.

Some days, overcoming your own personal trials means that your nonprofit’s programs and services will continue to be delivered. I can remember several times when I have tried fundraising events or activities that just fell flat. It would have been easy to give up and throw in the towel. But instead, I chose to examine those experiences and look for the learning. Sometimes it was obvious and sometimes it wasn’t. Yet every time, I was able to move forward with more knowledge about how to improve the next time.

When I worked at the food bank, I figured out quickly that when I did my job well, people ate. And it was that simple to me. I knew I could let my own stuff get in the way or I could work through it, come out the other side, and ultimately raise more money. (Guess which option I chose?)

What we do matters. We change the world every day.

Don’t ever forget it. It might just help you get through the next time something doesn’t work out the way you want it to.